London: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was finally granted political asylum by Ecuador Thursday, two months after he took refuge in the Andean nation’s London embassy while fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden.
Assange took refuge at the embassy in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over assault and rape claims, which he denies, BBC reported.
Ecuador said there were fears Assange’s human rights might be violated, with Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino accusing Britain of making an “open threat” to enter its embassy to arrest Assange.
Britain’s Foreign Office said the decision on Assange’s application for political asylum would not affect the country’s legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden.
It tweeted: “We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act.”
Ecuador’s foreign minister made the announcement of granting political asylum to Assange in a live televised broadcast Thursday, RIA Novosti reported.
“In accordance with our policies, the government of Ecuador decided to grant political asylum to Julian Assange,” Patino said in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.
On Wednesday, Ecuador said that the British government had raised the possibility of forcibly removing Assange from the London-based embassy. He had been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010.
Politicians in the US called for Assange to be prosecuted – or even assassinated – after WikiLeaks disseminated thousands of US diplomatic cables as well as a video that showed an American military helicopter crew killing a Reuters photographer and several other civilians in Iraq.
The WikiLeaks founder had been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010.